Underdog’s Corner — Sedris, the Traitor King

Brought Back to Life

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of the Underdog’s Corner! If this is your first time, this series is all about covering the underplayed, unrecognized, and outshined commanders of our format. Overall popularity is the most common way we identify underdogs, but I’ve shown in the past that it can also be based on a general’s popularity within a given set that was very popular. Today we travel back to the plane of Alara where ours is the least popular general from that set and falls into the bottom third of all legendary creatures from the Alara block. Ladies, gentlemen, and spell-slingers, give it up for Sedris, the Traitor King!


Sedris, the Traitor King

As one of the few Grixis legends at the time of his release, Sedris, the Traitor King ruled as one of the two most-played legends for those colors along with Nicol Bolas. However, his reign has been on the decline as more legends were introduced and currently finds himself overtaken by six other legends including one that came out two sets later: Thraximundar. Despite this, Sedris still has the power to exercise his dominion over other players. So how does he accomplish that:

“Each creature card in your graveyard has unearth {2}{B}.({2}{B}: Return the card to play. That creature gains haste. Remove it from the game at end of turn or if it would leave play. Unearth only as a sorcery.)

While Sedris is on the board, we can bring back any creature from our graveyard for {2}{B}, and it gains haste. The downside is that the creature gets exiled at the end of the turn, and considering we’re not in the colors for Riftsweeper or Pull from Eternity, that’s going to be a permanent zone change. Despite that downside, being able to generate value from our graveyard for three mana is a powerful tool, and we’re going to want to gear our creature selection to take advantage of that ability. Creatures with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers are a must, but we also get to leverage creatures with powerful attack triggers as well, thanks to haste. The question now is, how do we do more with Unearth?


A Return from Exile

Unearth applies a replacement effect to our resurrected creatures so that if they would leave the battlefield, they become exiled instead. Bouncing back to hand, tucking them into your library, hiding them in your jacket pocket… they go to exile; changing zones is a no-go for them. However, we do have a loophole in the contract. There is nothing in Unearth that prevents a creature from returning from exile.

This immediately opens up a lot of options for us. Aside from the value of not losing our creature to permanent exile, we also gain the advantage of doubling up on enters-the-battlefield effects. Conjurer’s Closet is the classic engine card for this kind of effect as it can be included in any deck. Especially popular in decks like Roon of the Hidden Realm and Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Conjurer’s Closet is still a popular choice according to EDHREC, with inclusions in 40% of all Sedris decks. But what else do we have access to? What are some “underdog” picks?

Endless Sands doesn’t take up a spell slot so I’m already interested in it. While it does effectively cost six mana to Unearth a creature and save it with the desert, I think it’s enough of an “under the radar” pick that it should dodge removal. That is, unless you get greedy and try to make it a second copy of Living Death. Even bringing back two creatures should be enough to accumulate a ton of value. However, the desert is currently played in only five Sedris decks. Try it out!

Our next pick appears in even fewer decks. Release to the Wind, a newer card from Rivals of Ixalan is just money, but it doesn’t appear in a single deck! Zero! While this does cost six mana, it does make that mana go a long way. Here’s a possibility for you: Unearth Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Attack an opponent to exile the top twenty cards of their library. Then cast Release and exile Ulamog. Now you can recast Ulamog and exile two permanents. If you don’t like the thought of that, this may be the wrong format for you.

Let’s talk about some creatures. We have several nonland cards to help us save our reanimated friends, but what creatures can be self-sufficient? Let’s start with a classic: Deadeye Navigator. In this deck, unearthing a creature while Deadeye is on the board is as strong as you expect. Our wandering spirit can soulbond with our reanimated target, and then we can pay {1}{U} to blink it back into play permanently. This also works if we are unearthing the Navigator itself! Basically, the value-train didn’t come to a stop in Grixis.

Next up are the deck’s strong, independent creatures. First up is Aetherling, who I’ll say isn’t just made for dominating Standard. Being able to exile itself at will is incredibly strong within the context of the entire deck, and the ability to not only pump itself but also become unblockable will help crunch out the final points of damage against certain opponents.

Next up is a pet choice of mine that I think deserves serious consideration. Nezahal, Primal Tide does everything this deck wants to do. Drawing cards is never a bad thing for any deck, and Nezahal provides a very consistent engine for that. Next, Nezahal can exile and return itself at the low cost of zero mana. Ok, sure, it’s not “free.” We do have to discard three cards, but that helps to feeds Sedris’ abilities as well. Overall, the big fish is going to get work done. Did I mention it’s a 7/7?


Out of the Grave

With all of this talk about reanimating creatures, I guess we should talk about what we’re going to bring back.

Really, it’s up to personal taste. Necromancers don’t discriminate, and you can choose any type of fatties you want. I do think you’ll want to have a variety of options. Cards like Sphinx of Uthuun and Rune-Scarred Demon give us card advantage just by making an appearance. Fact or Fiction and Demonic Tutor stapled to giant flying bodies seems good, right? What if we want something more than an ETB? Let’s look at Etali, Primal Storm and Lord of the Void. Both of these gain us immense advantage through the combat step. Unearthing Etali just seems brutal, and I’d be excited to pull that off. Pay {2}{B} to potentially cast 2-4 free spells? Sign me up. Lord of the Void is an old pet favorite of mine, and there is still something to be said about stealing opposing creatures for free. We can add in any number of other creatures for value as well, but in the end it comes down to personal taste and overall build.

Let’s have a quick talk though. A lot of these examples have made the assumption that we can keep Sedris on the board. Sedris is six-mana in Grixis colors. Having him killed more than once will likely completely remove him from the game, and that’s a drag. Ah, but fear not, true believers, it’s not the end of the world. There is plenty of redundancy available to us.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Dreams of the Dead. Now put them down you liars. That’s a tad harsh as there are plenty of people that have heard of this old card, but the majority of the player base probably has no clue. This card appears in only 31 decks on EDHREC… not 31 Sedris decks, 31 decks throughout EDHREC. Insane. For {1}{U} we can reanimate any black creature, but it gains a cumulative upkeep cost. Also, just like Unearth, if the creature leaves the battlefield, it gets exiled. Hey, remember the blink shenanigans from earlier? They apply here too.

The same goes for another card that’s slightly more popular: Dawn of the Dead. The first time I saw this card in action I was dumbstruck. So much value, and it’s so much easier to abuse than anything else. Rather than needing a workaround like blinking creatures, all we need to preserve our fatties with this out is a sacrifice outlet. Sure, it’s telegraphed, but having this wheel around is going to be a bad time for everyone but you.

Feldon of the Third Path acts as a once per turn Sedris for our purposes. The trade-off for being once a turn? We can keep abusing the same creature as Feldon only creates a copy of a creature in our graveyard; the creature card never leaves the yard. I like that and so should you.

And that’s only three cards. We also have access to the likes of Mimic Vat, Whip of Erebos, Havengul Lich and more.

Tricks of the Trade

Now that we’ve talked a bit about the centerpieces to our engine, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts that actually make it run.

Embalmer’s Tools is a great boon to Sedris as reducing the cost to unearth from three mana to two is a massive difference. Sure, most of the time the second line of text is filler, but when it does come up we’re glad to have it. Also, Sedris is a zombie if you hadn’t noticed his type line.

Next up, is the quintessential key cog for janky strategies everywhere: Sundial of the Infinite. I won’t go into the finer points of why it works the way it does, but the effect is simple. At the end of our turn, Unearth, Feldon, Dawn of the Dead, or any of our other effects will go to exile our creatures. With those on the stack, we activate Sundial and end our turn. When that happens, all of those triggers will be exiled, and our creatures are back permanently.

Next up is learning how to navigate Teferi’s Veil. Here’s the gist: At the end of combat, our creature will “phase out.” It’s still on the battlefield, but we treat it like it doesn’t exist. At the end of the turn, our triggers will still go on the stack though. Since our creature is phased out, it won’t get exiled when those triggers resolve. Then, next turn they’ll phase back in, and then we get to keep them indefinitely.

Why does this happen this way?

702.25b If a permanent phases out, its status changes to “phased out.” Except for rules and effects that specifically mention phased-out permanents, a phased-out permanent is treated as though it does not exist. It can’t affect or be affected by anything else in the game.

and…

702.25d The phasing event doesn’t actually cause a permanent to change zones or control, even though it’s treated as though it’s not on the battlefield and not under its controller’s control while it’s phased out. Zone-change triggers don’t trigger when a permanent phases in or out. Counters remain on a permanent while it’s phased out. Effects that check a phased-in permanent’s history won’t treat the phasing event as having caused the permanent to leave or enter the battlefield or its controller’s control.

Phasing, man.


The Dead Rise

Sedris and His Legion

Commander (1)
Artifacts (15)
Creatures (29)
Instants (5)
Planeswalker (1)
Enchantments (7)
Sorceries (6)
Lands (36)

Despite his age, Sedris is still a force to be reckoned with, and I think anyone who underestimates him from the get go will surely be crushed under his onslaught.


The New Kids on the Block

With Dominaria now on the loose from prerelease, we will start to see decks helmed by the new legends pop up. I have a question for all of the readers: Who are the Underdog Commanders from Dominaria? Who do you think is already being overlooked? Our next installment will feature one of these new legends!

Thanks for joining me in the Underdog’s Corner!

 

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64